On freelance life + Hollywood

Me, back in my entertainment reporter days.

If I were to list my Top 5 Annoyances relating to my job as a freelance writer, do you know what they’d be?

1. People who don’t think I “really” work.

No, I don’t think I’m automatically the best person to organize that fundraiser / plan that playdate / drive that carpool just because my office is in my house. 

(Although I am, possibly, the best person for it because I’m organized. JUST NOT FOR THE WORK REASON OK?)

2. People who think I’m a stay-at-home parent who maybe dabbles at writing.

The stuff you guys see? The stuff I share on Facebook? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

3. Waiting months to get paid sometimes.

Argghhhhh so poor. (But sometimes yayyyy rich!)

4. Panicking I won’t have enough work. 

(This has yet to actually happen.)

5. People who think freelancing is easy.

So not easy. Really.

***

So I’ve come up with this theory.

It’s that having a “normal job” — with a steady paycheque, reasonably regular hours, stability, and maybe even the chance to get raises and/or promotions — is like bring on a TV show. Yes, you could still lose your job at any point — getting written off the show — but it’s still pretty stable.

For some freelancers, it’s like working in the movies. You jump from movie to movie, sometimes working on two at once but usually focusing on one huge project at a time.

When the project is almost over, there’s panic and you’re wondering about your next role. You might have a drastically better or worse role next time. The pay might be higher or lower. Your co-stars could be awesome or awful. You just don’t know.

For other freelancers, it’s more like the life of a working not-that-successful actor in Hollywood. You’re juggling lots of different projects — maybe a few commercials, a small part on a TV movie, some voiceover work — and you’re never sure what’s around the corner.

You need to be organized so you’re always in the right place, doing the right work, and not double-booking yourself. You know that any of your projects could disappear without notice, and that keeps you in a constant state of nervous hustle.

Sometimes the hustle leads to bigger and better projects. Actors can become famous, and freelancers … well, maybe we can become famous in our fields? That’s the “free” part of freelancer: the endless possibilities. The chances. The dreams.

Money can be tricky when you’re an actor — a struggling one, at least — and it’s no different for freelancers. We have great months when we’re getting paid for projects and it’s no problem to pay the bills + tuck some away.

And we have awful months where it doesn’t matter how hard we work, the money simply isn’t coming in yet. Cheque’s in the mail, accounting person’s on vacation, client hasn’t paid on the other end — you name it, we’ve heard it.

There are so many good things about being a freelancer, like the freedom of setting your own work hours (uh, based completely around my husband’s work schedule and my children’s school/preschool schedule, of course).

But there is also the panic, the hustle, the unknown, and the struggle.

So the next time you’re tempted to think what we do is laze around in our PJs or “a hobby” “not really work,” please think of us as struggling actors — chasing our dreams and working very hard to do it.

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